Monday, August 18, 2008
Tom and I grew up together. Our parents were friends. Our families did things together. He and I did things together. We went through school together and graduated in the same high school class. My radio career began in 1962 and his the following year, at the same station: this one! (Back then it was WDMC.)
We worked together at WHTC in Holland. Tom went to WKMI in Kalamazoo in 1966. I followed him in ’67. A couple of years later, he was the Program Director there when he gave that up to move to our sister station in Charleston, West Virginia. I took over his job as P.D.
Soon after that our careers took different tracks. Tom left radio and I kept on. From that point on Tom did a lot of things, most of them successfully. He drove a beer delivery truck, bought and ran a popular tavern in Plainwell (Somers Place,”) raised and raced horses, bought and sold cars, and finally, when he was about 50, took off (literally) in a totally new direction. He became a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines!
Now retired from all of those endeavours, he has returned to radio. And I, for one, am going to enjoy hearing him again. I hope you will too.
Welcome back, my friend.
(A word about Ralph Grant: For about a dozen years Ralph lent his considerable talents to our afternoon show. Now Ralph has retired and he and his wife have moved from Kalamazoo into a condo somewhere in West Michigan. Our thanks to him for his many years entertaining us, both at WAKV and earlier at WKZO. Relax, Ralph, and enjoy yourself. You’ve earned it!)
Monday, August 4, 2008
OK. So it’s been a long time since I added anything to this site. But, I’ve been busy. Among other things I have been working to make some changes at WAKV. One of those changes has brought an old friend back to the radio.
Bill Anthony is our new midday host (10 a.m. ‘til 2 p.m.) Bill and I have worked together at a couple of other stations. First, at WKMI in Kalamazoo back in the 70’s. That was when that station was at the top of the heap, not only in Kalamazoo, but as one of the highest rated radio stations in the country. Back then AM music formatted stations dominated listening, and thanks to guys like Bill, WKMI was one of the most dominant.
Later we worked together at WQXC in Otsego in the 1980’s. But, Bill Anthony has a long resume, which also includes stops at 50-thousand watt, clear-channel WHAM in Rochester, N.Y., in Allentown, Pa., and in Battle Creek. Bill has an easy, friendly style, and a great voice which will be fondly remembered by former listeners and welcomed by new listeners. I hope you’ll give him a try.
Meanwhile, Ron Turner, who has hosted the midday show on The Memory Station for the past 12 years, will be cutting back on his schedule and moving to the Sunday afternoon show. Longtime Sunday guy, Lee Dershem, whose history in the Kalamazoo market goes back about 50 years, will be leaving the air, with our thanks for a dozen or so years here at WAKV. We will miss him.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
I was in the house the other day, with all doors and windows closed, when I heard the unmistakable sound of a thumping bass coming from a car radio. One of those dang kids going by with some god-awful rap music turned up full blast? No, it was obviously not moving. The sound was constant, and it was coming from my own driveway. Suzanne had come home and was sitting in the van with the car radio volume set at a painful level. She was “groovin’” to a “Driveway Song!!!”
So what is a “Driveway Song,” you ask. Well, that’s the name I’ve given to those tunes that you like so much that you’ll sit in the driveway and listen until they’re over. There aren’t that many of them, but everyone has a few. Songs that you are so emotionally attached to that you can’t bear the idea of shutting it off in the middle.
My own list of Driveway Songs is probably longer than most just because I’ve spent nearly 46 years of my life playing songs on the radio. And, my list includes a variety of styles, too. I won’t attempt to rank them, because their position on the list may fluctuate, depending on my mood any given day. But they include:
Diana Ross, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” long version only! Just about the most exciting six minutes ever put on vinyl (back when records were still records.)
Bob Seger, “Against The Wind” and “Night Moves” (yes, I know the latter has been overplayed but it still gets me.)
Eddie Fisher, “Oh My Papa.” Okay, I know I know it doesn’t exactly fit with Diana Ross and Bob Seger, but we’re talking about emotional attachment to the tune. This is the first record I ever bought, on a 78, and I bought it three times. (I accidentally broke two of them.”
Anything by the Everly Brothers. These guys had 38 singles hit the charts between 1957 and 1984, and many more that should have. Not to mention numerous album tracks. No better harmonies—ever—in pop music.
Crosby, Stills, and Nash, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” I’m not crazy about the first six minutes, but that last minute and a half still sends chills up my back, even after almost 40 years.
Glenn Miller, “In The Mood” (not that you’re likely to hear it on very many car radios these days, unless you’re listening to The Memory Station, WAKV.) Of all of the great big band swing instrumentals, this one set the standard, and few others even came close, except maybe Miller’s own “String Of Pearls” with the Bobby Hackett cornet solo.
Ray Price, “Night Life.” Haunting, exquisite, beautiful.
Jimmie Rodgers, “Two-ten, Six-eighteen.” (This is by the 50’s-60’s pop Rodgers, not the 1920’s country singer. One of those great songs that came out late in his career that didn’t chart nearly as well as it should have, and which is now nearly impossible to find. Even I don’t have a copy.
Nancy Wilson, “Satin Doll.” Great Song, great singer, great arrangement. And, my favorite female singer of all time.
And, many more.How about you. What are your Driveway Songs? What tunes would you want to hear all the way to the end when you pull into the driveway and are faced with the choice of shutting off the car or listening to the conclusion?
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Family History, or genealogy, has been a nearly life-long passion for me, going back to the days when my grandfather used to tell me of his grandfather who was killed in the Civil War. Armed with just his name, I headed for history section of Plainwell’s Ransom Library and began checking the index of every Civil War volume on the shelves. Before long I had found the name! He was a Union general… killed at the Battle of the Wilderness. Wow! A general!
Well, it was the wrong guy. When I was 10 or 12 years old it never occurred to me that there might have been more than one James Wadsworth in the Union Army. Later, I learned that my guy was a sergeant, not a general. (More on him in a later post.) That was the beginning of my interest in family history. In the intervening 50 or so years I have run across a lot of folks I wish I’d had the chance to meet.
There was old C.C. Gilbert, my Scotch-Irish Great-great-grandfather who emigrated from Belfast to Canada and taught weaving in his old age; William Higgs, my English Great-great-grandfather, who in the 1881 UK Census was cooling his heels in one of London’s most notorious prisons for reasons which I have yet to discover; and, there was Five Time Fanny Magee.
Fanny (or more correctly Frances Jane Magee) was my great-grandmother’s mother who may have been raised as an army brat and married at least twice and possibly as many as five times. Fanny was born to Sgt. James Magee and his second wife, Jane Startup, I believe on the grounds of the Royal Military Asylum, in Chelsea, Middlesex, England. Her father was a career soldier who served in the British Army with the Grenadier Guards. At the time of Fanny’s birth he was a Hospital Sergeant at the R.M.A.
Fanny began her series of marriages three days before Christmas in 1873 when she married George Warner, a Buckinghamshire mason and bricklayer. They had three children, including my great-grandmother. Then George just disappeared, sometime after the 1881 census. By December of 1884 Fanny was getting married again, to a Frenchman named Charles Megain. They also had three kids. Charles, who was living on an army pension, died in 1896. By 1901 Fanny was living with William Robson. The 1901 Census showed her as his wife, though when she died some 15 years later her death certificate showed her name as Megain. I think she might have been “living in sin” with Mr. Robson so her military widow’s pension wouldn’t be jeopardized.
I think Fanny must have also been either married or involved with at least one and maybe two other men. Both of her daughters’ marriage certificates show their father’s name as James Brown, though clearly their father was George Warner. Who the heck was James Brown (aside from the Godfather of Soul?)
Fanny’s occupation on a couple of UK censuses was listed as “charwoman,” but it’s clear she picked men who had some income. Charles Megain was receiving an army pension and William Robson was a bootmaker.
Many questions remain about my Great-great-grandmother, Five-Time Fanny Magee. But hers is one of the more interesting lives that I've investigated, so far.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
With Easter just days away, the question of what to serve for dinner is upon us. Lamb, of course, is traditional and will probably win the day at the Higgs household this year. That might not have been the case, except that we have a newfound fondness for the wooly little critter.
Like many people, I have not always cared much for lamb (they’re cute, but for eating I usually prefer beef… “real food for real people.”) The occasional leg of lamb for special events or lamb chops, if you can afford them, were okay. But recent events have changed my mind. You see, Suzanne has a friend who raises sheep, and not long ago we bought one of the butchered lambs.
All of a sudden I was faced with what to do to make a bunch of steaks, chops, roasts and legs palatable. Not to mention the challenge of ground lamb, stew meat, and lamb liver (the dogs won that one!)
Believing that lamb is more frequently eaten in the UK, I emailed a cousin in England and asked for any special lamb recipes she might have. She sent me a link to a BBC food site, which has a ton of lamb recipes. I will be trying some that sound particularly good.
But one thing I learned was that garlic, fresh rosemary, and feta cheese can turn lamb into something truly delicious. Another thing I learned was that a privately raised young lamb tastes a whole lot different than most of the lamb that I’ve eaten before. So, give lamb another try. Don’t overcook it. Don’t be afraid to be creative. And, if you’ve got a favorite lamb recipe, share it with the rest of us.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Welcome to the first post on my new blog. I’m doing this at the urging of my dear wife, Suzanne, who seems to think that the world is waiting for me to expound on all kinds of things. So, from time to time I will offer up some opinions, thoughts, recommendations, and comment on those things near and dear to me: Radio, Genealogy, History, Politics, Food, Cooking, and whatever else come to mind.
Suzanne has been blogging for some time now. You can find her blog here:
Meanwhile, back at the ranch (that’s an old radio term) you can expect to find some shameless promotion here of my radio station… WAKV, The Memory Station. For those of you located in Southwest Michigan, tune it in at 980-AM. This is a station meant for people over the age of 50, so you’ll hear some of your favorite songs of the last 50 years or more. And you’ll heard them the way you first heard them, complete with static and fading, on an AM radio. It’s the only place you’ll hear much of this music! Everything from Sinatra to Three Dog Night… Tony Bennett to the Beatles. Bob Seger (he’s over 60 now,) Peter, Paul, & Mary, Mathis, The Eagles, Anne Murray… even the occasional Glenn Miller.
I know it’s a strange mix… but I like it…and I own it!!!